2002, NR, 118 min. Directed by Duncan Roy. Starring Matthew Leitch, Diana Quick, George Asprey, Lindsey Coulson, Blake Ritson, Peter Youngblood Hills, Geoff Bell, Camille Sturton.
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., March 5, 2004
Profoundly interesting yet rarely compelling, this semiautobiographical fiction from British writer-director Duncan Roy is an unconventional work. The film tells the story of Dean Page (Leitch), an 18-year-old who hails from a drab London suburb and a daydreaming mum (Coulson) and abusive dad (Bell). He leaves home and somehow manages to ingratiate himself into the employ of Lady Gryffoyn (Quick), a London art dealer who also welcomes Dean into her home and social world, where he fulfills his desire of belonging to the aristocratic elite. All goes well with Dean’s social climb until Lady Gryffoyn’s son Alexander (Ritson) returns home on holiday and causes friction, which prompts Dean to take off for Paris and start a new, even more dangerous, charade. This time he adopts the identity of Alexander Gryffoyn and attains another art gallery job while also becoming an object of desire for much of the gay aristocratic world. He survives off a credit-card scam, which eventually becomes the means of his undoing. AKA is one of the more interesting gay-identity movies to come around in a while, as Dean’s sexual identity and bogus identity become tangled up into one crazy knot. Yet the movie seems more concerned with eviscerating the British upper classes than with explorations of identity. Roy’s portrait of the aristocracy is vicious, showing them to be at all times snobbish, cruel, and oblivious. It becomes even more curious because, in real life, Roy pulled a similar feat and went to jail for his stunt of deceitfully joining the upper crust. The movie would be much more interesting if it were to examine this conflicting desire to both belong to and denigrate the aristocracy – and, thereby, the self. Complicating things further is the manner in which the story is told: in triptychs. It seems Roy was inspired by Mike Figgis’ experimental Timecode, which also used multiple frames, although the technique is as old as Abel Gance’s 1927 Napoleon. The three simultaneous frames rarely multiply our understanding of the situation, and given the DV quality of the images shrinking them to fit side by side on the screen only dampens their clarity and impact. AKA, nevertheless, is an interesting though not extremely successful experiment, but it definitely makes you want to see what Duncan Roy does next.